Substantial progress has been made in terms of improving our competitiveness. Relatively lower price inflation over the last number of years means that Irish price levels have fallen relative to our major trading partners. At the same time there has been a significant improvement in our cost competitiveness. Indeed, the European Commission recently forecast that our nominal unit labour costs will have fallen by a cumulative 16.5 percentage points in the period 2009-2013 compared to an increase of 6.6 percentage points for the euro area as a whole. Furthermore, from a macro-economic perspective an important measure of competitiveness across the euro area is the real Harmonised Competitiveness Indicator (HCI). This reflects relative consumer prices trends together with exchange rate developments and is produced by the Central Bank of Ireland. Since mid-2008, the real HCI has fallen by almost 20 per cent, indicating an improvement in our international competitiveness.
On foot of these positive developments, we have seen a recovery in our exports as well as an improvement in inward foreign direct investment, and I am encouraged by this. Having said that, further improvements in competitiveness are clearly needed in order to make significant inroads into the unacceptably high rate of unemployment that we are currently faced with.